Category Archives: Students

ECU student to drive in NASCAR trucks race at Martinsville Speedway

East Carolina University students went far and wide during spring break, but Tyler Matthews was probably the only one working with a NASCAR race team preparing a truck for his national racing series debut this week.

The ECU junior takes that next step in his racing career Saturday at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at the famed Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The race starts at 2 p.m. and airs on FS1.

ECU student Tyler Matthews is shown after a late model stock win at East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville in 2016. He takes the next step in his racing career Saturday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. (Contributed photos)

ECU student Tyler Matthews is shown after a late model stock win at East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville in 2016. He takes the next step in his racing career Saturday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. (Contributed photos)

“We’ve been working for a couple of months to sign the contract deal, and the fact that it’s happening is a dream come true because I’ve always wanted to race in the top levels,” Matthews told the Jacksonville Daily News in January. “A lot of these drivers have been racing for a long time. So for me to do all of this in a short amount of time is awesome.”

Earlier this year, Matthews signed a three-race deal with MDM Motorsports in Mooresville to drive the No. 99 Chevrolet Silverado. In addition to Martinsville, Matthews is scheduled to race June 16 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, and June 23 at Gateway Speedway in Madison, Illinois, just outside St. Louis.

Once he completes those races, NASCAR should approve him to compete on larger tracks, which the team could add to its schedule later this year, he said.

ECU junior Tyler Matthews

ECU junior Tyler Matthews

Matthews, from Richlands, is a construction management major in the College of Engineering and Technology at ECU. The 21-year-old won the 2016 late model track championship at Southern National Motorsports Park near Kenly and the 2017 late model championship at Carteret County Speedway near Swansboro.

He was the 2015 state NASCAR Whelen All-American Late Model Series Rookie of the Year and the series’ 2016 state champion.

The truck series is the bottom tier of NASCAR’s national touring series. Trucks race on a mix of short and intermediate ovals, superspeedways, two road courses and even a dirt track. Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota are represented in the series.

At 3,400 pounds, the trucks weigh about 300 pounds more than the late model stock cars Matthews is used to, and their 650-horsepower engines have about 250 more horsepower.

Matthews started racing 4-wheelers in enduro-type races through the woods when he was about 7, he said. In high school, he built his first race car for an entry-level division called UCAR and started racing late models – the top division at most local stock-car tracks – about five years ago.

His parents, Steve and Amanda Matthews, crew chief and former local racer Doug Barefoot (“He taught me a ton,” Matthews said.) and some high school friends, some of whom attend ECU, have helped him along the way.

“You have to enjoy what you do, and having your friends there makes it more fun,” he said.

Matthews said when semesters begin and professors ask students to talk about themselves, most of his classmates don’t really understand what he means when he says he’s a race car driver – the level of work and dedication it takes to succeed at just the local level. But when they see photos or come to a race, they get the idea.

Matthews plans to remain enrolled at ECU and then “see what happens for next year if I can make this full time,” he told the Daily News. But he added his parents have always insisted that school come before racing.

ECU junior Tyler Matthews works on the Chevrolet Silverado he will race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Saturday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

ECU junior Tyler Matthews works on the Chevrolet Silverado he will race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Saturday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

“It just gets difficult trying to focus on school and do the best you can in racing,” he said. “I just know I have to get my schoolwork done if I want to race. School comes first, or the racing will come to an end.”

Roger Burns, manager of Carteret County Speedway and father of two sons who race against Matthews, said he’s a “smooth driver” who has a bright future behind the wheel if all goes well.

“He and his dad worked really hard to get where he’s at,” Burns said.

Matthews said his main goal for his first truck series races is to run well, learn and stay out of trouble. Ultimately, he wants to compete full time in the series and then move up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy Cup Series.

“That’s definitely my goal to one day run Cup, but that doesn’t always happen,” Matthews told the Daily News. “You have to make the best of what you have. You have to make the best of what opportunities you have.”

And for him, making the most of opportunities means one thing.

“I just want to win,” he said. “I’m so competitive I just want to win everything I do.”

In addition to his truck schedule, Matthews also hopes to compete in some late model races this year. Follow his progress on @TMatthews___ and on Facebook at tyler.matthews.731572.


-by Doug Boyd, University Communications

ECU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi Hosts inaugural lecture

ECU’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, established in 1970, is pleased to host its inaugural distinguished lecture. (Contributed photos.)

ECU’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, established in 1970, is pleased to host its inaugural distinguished lecture. (Contributed photos.)

The East Carolina University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines, will host its inaugural lecture this month.

Dr. M. Todd Bennett, associate professor of history in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, will discuss “Imagination Unlimited: How the CIA Raised a Sunken Soviet Submarine in the 1970s and Why it Matters Today” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, in the Jenkins Fine Arts Auditorium, Room 1220. The event is free and open to the public.

The ECU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, established in 1970, is ECU’s most distinguished academic honor society.

“The collegiate honor society promotes academic excellence in all fields of higher education and supports a community of scholars and professionals,” said Dr. Marianna Walker, president of the chapter and associate professor in the College of Allied Health Sciences.

Dr. M. Todd Bennett, associate professor of history.

Dr. M. Todd Bennett, associate professor of history.

“Historically, the ECU chapter has co-sponsored lectures and events across campus. This will be the first distinguished Phi Kappa Phi lecture at East Carolina University,” said Walker.

Bennett is the author of “One World, Big Screen: Hollywood, the Allies and World War II” and the editor of several volumes in the Foreign Relations of the United States series, the official documentary record of American foreign policy published by the U.S. Department of State.

He has appeared on National Public Radio and contributed to The Washington Post and the journals of Diplomatic History, and Intelligence and National Security. Bennett’s current book project on the Glomar Explorer submarine won a 2017-2018 Public Scholar award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For additional information about ECU’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, visit For more information about the lecture, contact Walker at 252-744-6093 or


-by Lacey Gray, University Communications

ECU student honored as 2018 Newman Civic Fellow

Haley Creef has been named a Newman Civic Fellow. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Haley Creef has been named a Newman Civic Fellow. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education, has announced the 268 students who will make up the organization’s 2018 group of Newman Civic Fellows, including East Carolina University’s own Haley Creef.

“Haley is an outstanding role model for other students – she is passionate about our local community but committed to learning about large-scale issues,” said Dr. Dennis McCunney, director of ECU’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, who recommended Creef for the honor. “She connects her learning in the classroom with her involvement in civic issues. In so many ways, she embodies what it means to be an ECU student.”

Creef, a sophomore studying finance and economics, has served as a voter engagement student leader with the CLCE, a mentor for Jarvis Leadership Residence Hall, a special education teaching assistant at a local elementary school, and as treasurer for ECU’s Student Government Association.

“Since she arrived on campus, Haley has committed herself to putting many of ECU’s most treasured values – public service, leadership and community engagement – into action,” said Chancellor Cecil Staton in his nomination letter. “Through all of her activities and more, Haley displays her passion for enhancing our campus community as well as our local community.”


Creef is studying finance and economics at ECU.

The Newman Civic Fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, is a one-year experience emphasizing personal, professional and civic growth. Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference of Newman Civic Fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The fellowship also provides fellows with access to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate and engage with such an extraordinary group of students,” said Campus Compact president Andrew Seligsohn. “The stories of this year’s Newman Civic Fellows make clear that they are bringing people together in their communities to solve pressing problems. That is what Campus Compact is about, and it’s what our country and our world desperately need.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.


-by Jules Norwood, ECU News Services

Social work graduate student featured in state publication


Lowry (Contributed photo)

William Lowry Jr., a combat veteran and master of social work student at East Carolina University, has received a scholarship dedicated to increasing the number of practitioners working with military service members and their families.

Lowry was featured in the North Carolina Governors Institute on Substance Abuse winter newsletter.

The scholarship, funded by the N.C. Division of Mental Health Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, aims to dually license practitioners and increase the number of licensed clinical addiction specialists working in North Carolina. The scholarship program is building a workforce that will support military service members and their families.

Lowry served 30 years in the military and is a combat veteran of the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His goal is to help people recover from substance use, mental health and medical issues.

Lowry is employed as a N.C. certified peer support specialist and integrative health coach in the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Center in Wilmington.

In the future, Lowry hopes to open a practice that serves veterans, at-risk youth and adults and provides educational workshops and training. He will graduate in May 2019.


-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services

Increased campus activity, traffic

During the weekend of March 23-24, ECU will have more than a dozen events, programs and activities going on across our main campus, athletics complexes and parking lots. ECU will once again be the hub of major activity, and our campus will be on full display for thousands of current and prospective Pirates and their families as well as devoted Pirate fans cheering during the Purple and Gold activities.

Here are some of the major events taking place:

Friday, March 23

  • Purple/Gold Pigskin Pigout at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
  • Spring Family Weekend events in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
  • Multiple Athletics events including volleyball and softball

Saturday, March 24

  • ECU Pirates Aboard – Admitted Students Day starting at 8 a.m.
  • ECU Spring Football Game at 2:30 p.m.
  • Spring Family Weekend festivities
  • Multiple Athletics events including lacrosse and softball

The largest impacts to the campus community are expected to be on Saturday, March 24.  With so many events going on at the same time and the current construction projects around the athletics complex and main campus, many of the roads around campus will see increased volumes of traffic. Additionally, many of our parking lots are expected to be full.

Motorists are encouraged to avoid the areas of campus that border Greenville Boulevard, Charles Boulevard, 14th Street, 10th Street, Fifth Street and Cotanche Street. Traffic will be more congested than normal and numerous buses will be utilized to shuttle campus visitors. Please drive defensively and allow extra time for your travels.

For additional information, please visit the following websites:

LimeBike launches at ECU

One hundred LimeBikes will be deployed on ECU’s campus on Monday, March 12. Anyone can unlock and use the bikes using the LimeBike app. (Contributed photos)

One hundred LimeBikes will be deployed on ECU’s campus on Monday, March 12. Anyone can unlock and use the bikes using the LimeBike app. (Contributed photos)

Beginning Monday, March 12, 100 LimeBikes will be deployed on East Carolina University’s main campus, offering students, faculty and staff, and visitors a simple way to find and use a bicycle.

LimeBike is a bike sharing company based in California and currently operates in more than two dozen cities and several university campuses including N.C. State and UNC Greensboro. Each bike is equipped with GPS, wireless technology and self-activating locks, freeing them from the confines of designated docking areas.

“The dock-free network makes it easier for ECU students and faculty to explore the campus on two wheels,” said LimeBike public relations coordinator Emma Green.

There is no cost to ECU for the service; users access the bikes and pay using LimeBike’s iOS or Android smartphone application. The cost for students and others with an ECU email address is 50 cents per half-hour.

Dan Hemme, LimeBike’s operations manager for Greenville, said he anticipates deploying additional bikes as needed and expanding to include the health sciences campus. The City of Greenville is also working on an agreement to deploy the bikes citywide.

For students, faculty and staff with an ECU email address, the cost is 50 cents per half hour.

For students, faculty and staff with an ECU email address, the cost is 50 cents per half hour.

Users are encouraged to wear helmets, obey traffic rules and safe bicycle operation, and to park the bikes in or near existing bike racks, not on sidewalks or lawn areas. ECU currently has bike rack capacity for 1,780 bicycles in 72 designated bike rack areas, according to Joshua Rossnagel, external operation supervisor for ECU Parking and Transportation.

“One of the projects we are working on is having daily occupancy reports of the bike racks so that we can get accurate data on where additional racks may be needed,” he said. “LimeBike also has strong data metrics that will allow us to find trends in the ridership on campus.”

LimeBike representatives will be manning tables on campus during the launch to answer questions and distribute LimeBike information and swag, including helmets. To celebrate the launch, riders can use the promotional code “LIMEATECU” to receive $1 off their first two rides.

“Bringing LimeBike to ECU will help reduce bicycle congestion on campus while providing alternative transportation methods that will reduce our carbon footprint,” Rossnagel said. “LimeBike will allow faculty, staff, students and guests the opportunity to travel throughout campus without moving their vehicle from their original parking destination.”

For more information visit


-by Jules Norwood, ECU News Services

Could a poll boost ECU’s national reputation?

The next presidential election may be two years away, but East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research has its focus set on Nov. 3, 2020.

•Peter Francia is the new director of ECU’s Center for Survey Research.

Peter Francia is the new director of ECU’s Center for Survey Research. (Contributed photo)

By then, Director Peter Francia hopes to have established a university polling center capable of accurately predicting the voting margins.

If successful, the university could join other polling powerhouses like Quinnipiac University, Monmouth University and Marist College, who regularly find themselves in the national spotlight come campaign season – an otherwise rare occurrence.

“They have a national reputation because of the polling they do. Why not ECU?” Francia said.

Becoming well-known for political polling extends beyond simple name recognition. The president of Monmouth University has estimated the value of free media exposure to be close to $1 billion. When John Lahey started Quinnipiac’s poll in the late ’80s, the school was a small commuter college with fewer than 2,000 students. A coordinated effort to build a polling facility helped turn it into a nationally known university with more than 10,000 students today.

“If you were to follow our admissions and our growth, you could follow the poll,” Lahey told Politico last year.

ECU plans to set up its poll beginning with a call center that will be built with the help of a $100,000 donation from alumni Wayne and Sherry Holloman. The Hollomans have annually supported a political science scholarship, Honors College student programming and the Voyages of Discovery lecture series.

Wayne and Sherry Holloman donated $100,000 to the Center for Survey Research to establish an ECU polling center.

Wayne and Sherry Holloman donated $100,000 to the Center for Survey Research to establish an ECU polling center. (Contributed photos)

“Imagine learning the results of the election and hearing people say, ‘ECU was dead on it,’” Wayne Holloman said. “It could be big.”

Housed in the Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Survey Research currently assists the university as well as private clients and public agencies in public opinion and community assessment research. That includes survey design, questionnaire development, data collection and focus group research.

“We’ve seen across the country that university-based opinion polls can capture the pulse of the electorate and catapult their institutions to prominence,” said Dr. William Downs, Dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. “Wayne and Sherry Holloman are great friends of ECU and of the Arts and Sciences, and their generous investment in our Center for Survey Research will ensure that Pirate polling has a successful launch and an impactful future.”

Francia, who is also a political science professor, said a polling center makes sense at ECU because North Carolina is an exciting state to be in politically.

“On the presidential map, North Carolina is not a red state or a blue state. It is a purple state. There is also a history of very competitive statewide contests for governor and for the U.S. Senate,” he said. “Moreover, partisan control of the U.S. Senate could potentially hinge on a single seat in 2020. If so, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate election will have national implications.”

The ECU Poll will involve students by giving them opportunities to work in the call center, develop questionnaires and conduct data analysis. Francia said he hopes the polling center can be worked into the political science curriculum so more students can learn how polling and random sampling works.

In addition to political polling, the university would be capable of polling on other topics that affect the area, like opioid use and immigrant labor.

“Expanding services and missions is important,” Holloman said. “That’s what this is. Making ECU a part of the community, the state and the nation.”


-by Erin Shaw, University Communications

Dowdy Student Store to host Grad Expo

Dowdy Student Store will host a Grad Expo for May 2018 graduates from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 and 21 and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the student store in the Wright Building on campus.

Graduating seniors can pick up caps and gowns; register for graduation; and order class rings, custom invitations, announcements and thank-you notes. Jostens, the official provider of class rings for ECU, will have samples of class rings, and representatives can help with finger sizing and original designs.

The Alumni Association, Pirate Club, Rec Center, Career Services, Registrar, The Buccaneer, College of Education Office of Alternative Licensure, Custom Stoles and University Frames will be on hand with offers and information.

Jostens has donated three $100 Dowdy Student Store gift cards that will be given away in a drawing. A diploma frame donated by University Frames also will be given away in the drawing. All May 2018 graduates are invited to enter; no purchase is necessary.

Representatives from Oak Hall custom regalia will be at Dowdy during the Expo for faculty members who wish to purchase their own gowns. They will have samples of regalia and can take measurements. A 10 percent discount will be given on all orders placed during this visit.

Graduating seniors unable to attend the Expo can visit Dowdy Student Stores after Feb. 22 to pick up their caps and gowns.

For more information about the Expo, call 252-328-6731 or visit

Global Living-Learning Community broadens students’ cultural perspectives

Fall 2017 marked the official beginning of East Carolina University’s Global Living-Learning Community, consisting of a tight-knit group of seven first-year students from diverse backgrounds who live in the same residence hall on campus. The students’ interests range from anthropology, biology and health care to Hispanic studies and Japanese culture.

The Global LLC is a joint effort between the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and ECU’s Division of Campus Living. Global LLC students take classes and workshops together, as well as participate in activities and events that highlight diverse cultural practices, worldviews and linguistic diversity.

Students stand with professor during crepe-making event

Global Living-Learning Community students Genesis Henderson, Maia Slonaker and Ella Dogbe-Tsogbe appear here with Dr. Nicolas Médevielle (left), teaching assistant professor of French, who led a crêpe-making event on campus Feb. 1, celebrating the French holiday, la Chandeleur. (Photos courtesy of Dr. Jennifer M. Valko and Dr. Larkin Murphy)

“Students live in an environment that supports academic achievement and are exposed to cultures and worldviews that will enhance their personal and professional development,” said Dr. Jennifer M. Valko, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Global LLC.

“One of the departmental goals for the Global LLC is to organize workshops, speakers and programs that will permit our majors and minors to mingle with Global LLC students,” Valko said. “The idea is to enhance their relationship within the department, encourage friendships between students who share interests and experiences and continue to help Global LLC students make a smooth transition into the university life at ECU.”

Emmanuella “Ella” Dogbe-Tsogbe, a Global LLC student whose family is from Togo, West Africa, said the Global LLC offers many important benefits.

“The Global LLC is a community for students to be close together,” said Dogbe-Tsogbe.

Students in the Global LLC are not necessarily international students. Many are from the United States and are interested in the world around them, while some students’ families, like Dogbe-Tsogbe’s, are from different parts of the world. Other students’ families are from Korea and Costa Rica.

“We get to interact with each other and share our cultures,” said Dogbe-Tsogbe.

On Feb. 1, the group had the opportunity to learn a bit about the French culture at an event that included a discussion about the history and significance of the French festival, la Chandeleur, with active crêpe-making stations. Hosted by the French studies program in Harriot College’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, the event was one of several this spring that are open to all majors at ECU.

“I liked that we were all interacting with each other, not just people from the Global LLC, but also from French classes and other LLCs,” said Dogbe-Tsogbe. “And it was great to make crêpes.”

Dr. Nicholas Médevielle (left) discusses the significance and history of the French holiday, la Chandeleur

Dr. Nicholas Médevielle (left) discusses the significance and history of the French holiday, la Chandeleur, with a group of students before assisting them at a crêpe-making station.

Dr. Nicolas Médevielle, teaching assistant professor of French, who led the event, said, “One of the best ways to interact with students and introduce them to the culture is to prepare food for and with them, and crêpes is a simple enough dish for students to try.”

Médevielle is from the northwestern region of France known as Bretagne or Brittany, where crêpes are embraced as the regional dish.

“I love to show students how they are made, but also to give students some information about the background of this festival,” he said. “As language teachers, we not only want to teach the language but also present some aspects of the cultures and history of the countries associated with these languages.”

According to Médevielle, in contemporary France, la Chandeleur (the festival of candles) is largely seen as a secular festival – an occasion to make and eat crêpes in the middle of the winter, which happens around the time of Carnival and “Mardi Gras” (aka Fat Tuesday).

In reality, la Chandeleur is a very old tradition. It has been celebrated as a Catholic feast for more than 1,500 years, replacing two previously established pagan festivals. La Chandeleur takes place 40 days after Christmas, on Feb. 2, and is a celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem.

Global Living-Learning Community students Genesis Henderson and Maia Slonaker make their own crêpes at the interactive academic and cultural event.

Global Living-Learning Community students Genesis Henderson and Maia Slonaker make their own crêpes at the interactive academic and cultural event.

At the beginning of the event, students learned the significance of the holiday. Then, they were able to view crêpes recipes and instructions in French and English and could sample crêpes made by faculty at two crêpe stations, or work at an interactive station where students were taught how to make their own crêpes.

Global LLC students also participate in a number of academic events that assist them with their transition into university life.

During their first semester at ECU, students in the Global LLC took the “Introduction to Global Studies” course together, taught by Médevielle and assistant professor of Russian studies Dr. Justin Wilmes. They participated in academic workshops on time management, learning styles, study skills and test-taking strategies; attended a business etiquette and networking dinner with an international focus; and engaged in a Skype discussion on the subject of happiness with university students at the Faculdade Max Planck in Indaiatuba, Brazil.

The students are exposed to a variety of support services around campus, including Joyner Library, the Pirate Academic Success Center, Office of Global Affairs, Global Academic Initiatives and Career Services. They interact with faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students from various academic units across ECU.

Michelle Giron Morales, a student in the Global LLC whose family is from Cali, Colombia, said the Global LLC has impacted her the most through the etiquette dinner, Pirate Academic Success Center workshops and the Skype conversation with students in Brazil.

“You can learn anything, from anyone, anywhere,” said Giron Morales.

She also said it is important that the Global LLC continue to emphasize cultural awareness.

“Employers are looking for someone who is willing to interact with people who are different than them,” Giron Morales said. “You learn a little bit more about yourself, too.”

This semester, the Global LLC will offer students the ability to participate in Salsa, Bachata and Merengue dance lessons at Crave Restaurant on Feb. 16, and attend a presentation about Jewish culture and Passover with a traditional Seder Dinner on April 7. A community service event also is in the planning process. For more information, visit


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

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